The Bundesliga is back and ready for the Rückrunde, or the second half of the season.
The fixtures are a mirror image of Matchday 1 and the weekend starts, as the season did, with Covid-stricken Bayern Munich against Gladbach.
Following the rule I set for this team at the end of last year, Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland are not available for selection, on account of not being human.
SVEN ULREICH (1.0m), MARVIN SCHWABE (1.2m)
Not picking Bochum shot stopper Manuel Riemann ahead of a home game against Florian Kohfeldt’s beleaguered Wolfsburg side feels odd but, when you can have two solid starting keepers for 2.2m combined, it’s hard to pass up.
Sven Ulreich will start in goal for Bayern after Manuel Neuer tested positive for Covid. Opponents Gladbach are without a league win in five games, so the champions should have too much for them – even with half of their first-choice 11 in isolation. Getting the Bayern keeper in for 1m versus an out-of-sorts opponent seems too good an offer to pass up on, with the Bavarians boasting the joint-best defensive record in the league.
Steffen Baumgart has confirmed that Marvin Schwäbe will continue in goal for Köln for the next few weeks, meaning he’ll be between the posts for their visit to Hertha Berlin on Sunday. The hosts are actually unbeaten in their last four home games but Köln haven’t lost in their last three road trips and are in good form. Schwäbe got nine points last time out against Stuttgart and could repeat that in Matchday 18.
BORNA SOSA (10.7m), HIROKI ITO (1.2m), PAVEL KADERABEK (9.9m), ANGELINO (14.4m), NICO SCHLOTTERBECK (9.4m)
Borna Sosa’s 28-point haul against Greuther Fürth in the reverse fixture is his highest score of the season. Despite picking up four points from their last three games, Fürth are still the league’s whipping boys and the team to target at both ends, having conceded the most and scored the least goals amongst them all. They’ve conceded the second-most goals from set-pieces this season, which adds a massive appeal to dead-ball maestro Sosa, as is the return from injury of his partner-in-crime from last season Sasa Kalajdzic (more on him later).
A budget alternative to Sosa, Hiroki Ito has secured his place in Stuttgart’s starting line-up. Ito scored against Mainz on Matchday 13, with 16 points showing what he’s capable of. If he’s going to get a big score against anyone else, it’ll be this Fürth side.
Hoffenhem have quietly been having a very solid season and they’ve done most of that without their first-choice right wing-back, Pavel Kaderabek. The Czech is now back from injury and picked up 13 points in the Matchday 17 draw with Gladbach, grabbing eight points for goal attempts that highlight his attacking qualities. With Hoffenheim hosting a very inconsistent Augsburg side who they beat 4-0 on the first day, Kaderabek could have fun.
Leipzig may be coming off the back of a poor draw at Augsburg and loss to Bielefeld but Angelino is still averaging 11 points per appearance in the three games since Domenico Tedesco took over. Leipzig have been much better at home than away all season (excluding the terrible Matchday 17 performance) and Mainz have been poor on the road, losing six of their eight. This should bode well for Angelino, who has been revived as a wing-back under Tedesco following a poor run under Jesse Marsch.
Nico Schlotterbeck has been seen as the second choice pick from Freiburg’s defence behind captain Christian Günter all season, yet finished the Hinrunde (first half of the season) just one point behind his more expensive team mate (144 to 145). Freiburg share the best defensive record in the league with Bayern and Schlotterbeck has been at the heart of all six clean sheets. A massive threat from set-pieces with a great game against low-scoring Bielefeld, Schlotterbeck is a great option for Matchday 18.
JAMAL MUSIALA (13.1m), VINCENZO GRIFO (14.8m), DAVID RAUM (10.9m), CHRISTOPHER NKUNKU (17.3m), FILIP KOSTIC (17.2m)
With three goals and four assists from just five starts, Jamal Musiala has shown what he can do when given the chance. Absences across the Bayern midfield mean he looks a sure-fire starter in attacking midfield. Musiala got 38 points from his three starts at the end of 2021 and can add to that against Gladbach’s poor defence.
Vincenzo Grifo has long been Freiburg’s talisman but the winger has been in especially great form of late. One goal and four assists in his last five games is impressive and he’s set to face the poor Bielefeld at the weekend. With penalties and set-pieces in his locker, Grifo could score big yet again.
I’ve picked his wing-back partner Kaderabek in defence but, even without the option of clean sheet points, David Raum is still a great option. The set-piece wizard has 69 points from his last six games, including a 21-point haul at Freiburg and 16 at Fürth. Against Augsburg, Raum should have plenty of space to whip in his trademark crosses.
I was tempted to pick Dominik Szoboszlai here, given the Hungarian averages 12 points per appearance so far this season, but I’m not quite ready to look past Christopher Nkunku, who has been perhaps the best player in the Bundesliga so far. His 198 points are second only to Robert Lewandowski and his 27-point haul against Gladbach on Matchday 15 shows that he’s still going to be a key player under Domenico Tedesco.
Whether Frankfurt are playing well or not, Filip Kostic scores points but it can’t hurt that Frankfurt have won six of their last seven. The Serbian has double-digit tallies in five of his last six league games and hosts a very leaky, disorganised Borussia Dortmund. With three goals and eight assists already, Frankfurt’s key man can pick up points from anywhere.
PATRIK SCHICK (15.6m), SASA KALAJDZIC (10.4m), ANTHONY MODESTE (9.3m)
Patrik Schick has eight goals in his last four Leverkusen games. The Czech striker is only behind Robert Lewandowski in the scoring charts but with the highest goals per 90 (1.31) of anyone in the league, just ahead of Erling Haaland (1.3). Schick faces Urs Fischer’s well-organised Union Berlin but, in this kind of form, it’s hard to know if even the best defence would be able to keep him quiet.
I could be accused of prioritising sentiment over reason in picking a striker who hasn’t started this season but Sasa Kalajdzic is finally back to full fitness and faces bottom-side Greuther Fürth in his comeback game. The league’s tallest striker will be looking to bully defences and get on the end of Borna Sosa’s crosses once more and add to his 16 Bundesliga goals from last season.
Anthony Modeste has truly been reborn under Baumgart at Köln, with his 154 points putting him two behind Schick and Haaland’s 156. He’s got 11 goals already and faces the Bundesliga’s second-worst defence in Hertha Berlin. 64 shots ranks him second in the league, meaning he has a high baseline of points even when he doesn’t score.
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